All those idiotic high-school functions are supposed to be the foundation of your youthful memories. The varsity football games, the pep rallies, the dances — I vaguely remember doing my time as a typical alienated teenager at all of them, but it's nothing crisp or interesting enough to talk about. Except for my senior-year homecoming parade: Let out of school before noon under the auspices of letting us watch some hobbledehoy caravan of crepe paper and homecoming royalty, me and a buddy, Joe (whose last name I can't even recall with certainty), opted for something different: Piling in my car, we made the pilgrimage downtown to blow our after-school jobs' wages at Wax Trax and Twist and Shout Records in Denver.
I can't even remember who our homecoming king and queen were, but I remember enthusiastic talks about The Ramones and Nirvana, Fishbone and Van Morrison. I remember the autumn sun, the scolding looks from patrons of fast-food joints to remind us of our semi-truancy. Most of all, I vividly remember that was the afternoon I picked up The Best Kissers in the World's Puddin' EP, Frank Black's first solo album and the just-released Super Black Market Clash.
"Stop the World" is one of the standout cuts collected on The Last Angry Band's surprisingly strong odds'n'sods collection. Probably doomed to B-side obscurity (backing "The Call Up") because of its utterly weird production values — it waffles between the mixing-board hijinks of Sandinista's dub filler tracks and the epic arena-rock visions of the band's dying days — "Stop the World" is still a marvelously complex, if short, example of The Clash's potential to rip through genres given the opportunity. Even after hearing it dozens of times over the past 15 years, I'm still not exactly sure where Mick Jones' guitar work ends and echo tracks and keyboards begin. Joe Strummer weaves a tale of a post-apocalyptic world while his rhythm section chugs dutifully below the surface, providing the dub-punk experiments enough backbone to stand up straight.
Had I attended that asinine homecoming day parade, I'm sure I would have picked up Super Black Market Clash the next time my Clash-worshipping 17-year-old self found it in the record store. I might even be able to remember a thing or two about a float or two, or enduring an afternoon with some girls with more school spirit than I could ever muster. But would I trade those "foundation of your youth" memories for that record-store shopping spree? Not on your life: That afternoon's still a million times more vivid, more important and more meaningful to me than a million pep rallies and homecoming games could ever be.